Originally Published: December 15, 2016 6:24 a.m.
PRESCOTT – Nationwide, on average, 33 school-age children die in school bus-related crashes each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
And, while there have been high-profile school bus collisions, the fact is, nearly two-thirds of school-age children killed in school bus-related crashes each year are killed outside the bus, and most of those are killed by the bus itself.
DID YOU KNOW?
The state law mandates a minimum $250 fine for passing on the reds. Do it again in three years and you can get slapped with a $750 fine.
Half of all school-age pedestrians killed in school bus-related crashes are 5 to 7 years old.
What drivers should know
The number one mistake impatient drivers make is to pass a school bus stopped to load or unload kids, with its red lights flashing and the “STOP” sign out.
“Some of them will drive right by,” said Ken Fox, transportation director for the Humboldt Unified School District. “If the stop sign is out and a car goes around them, two kids can be crossing the street … that’s very dangerous.”
Prescott Unified School District’s Shawn West said his drivers see this several times every day.
“(Bus drivers) get extremely nervous” when motorists ignore the red lights and sign, and will sometimes use their airhorn to warn the car’s driver to stop, West said, but “drivers will smile and wave as they go by” or make an obscene gesture.
“That’s potential for one of our students to get run over,” West added.
It’s also bad for your wallet: the state law mandates a minimum $250 fine for passing on the reds. Do it again in three years and you can get slapped with a $750 fine.
Just because you don’t see a cop around if you pass a school bus illegally doesn’t mean you got away with it. PUSD bus drivers have forms to take down the license plate of drivers who don’t stop.
“They write up a report and we submit it to DPS,” West said, “and they issue citations from Phoenix.”
Equally frustrating, said Fox: when drivers see the bus slow or display the yellow caution lights and speed up to pass before the reds come on.
West said his drivers see “a lot” of vehicles pull out in front of the school buses, forcing them to hit their brakes suddenly.
Prescott Valley Police spokesman Jerry Ferguson said they don’t see many violations, “partially because the bus drivers, on narrow residential streets, wisely stop in the middle of the roadway where cars can’t pass.”
He added that, when there are specific complaints on a bus route, “the patrol is extra heavy.”
Talk to children
School buses, by their very nature, can present a problem for bus drivers when kids are getting on and off.
Given the usual circumstances, a bus full of loud, boisterous children, even the best, most careful driver can miss seeing a child who drops something in front of the bus and stoops to pick it up.
The SafeMotorist.com website offers these tips to make kids safer when at the bus stop:
• Get to the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
• When the bus approaches, stand at least three giant steps (6 feet) away from the curb, and line up away from the street.
• Wait until the bus stops, the door opens, and the driver says its okay before stepping onto the bus.
• If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk on the sidewalk or along the side of the road to a point at least five giant steps (10 feet) ahead of the bus before you cross. Be sure that the driver can see you and you can see the bus driver.
• Use the handrails to avoid falls. When exiting the bus, be careful that clothing with drawstrings and book bags with straps don’t get caught in the handrails or doors.
• Never walk behind the bus.
• Walk at least three giant steps away from the side of the bus.
• If you drop something near the bus, tell the bus driver. Never try to pick it up because the bus driver may not be able to see you.